Category Archives: tips

Toddler Treasure Chest Treats – Sweet Potato Banana Scones

Within the last few months Bobby’s imagination has bloomed!  The other day we made these treats for breakfast and he decided to call to call them treasure chests.  When he bit into them, he found a special surprise.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll probably guess what that ingredient is – chocolate.   You might think I’m nuts to give my tot chocolate for breakfast, and maybe I am, but when the chocolate is surrounded by sweet potatoes, whole wheat and bananas, it seems a bit healthier.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ stick unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup milk (half and half or cream works too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 super ripe banana
  • 1 medium sized sweet potato
  • ½ cup to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Set your oven on 400.  Prepare your cookie sheets.  I just line mine with parchment paper.

While the oven preheats, make your dough.  You can make these scones in either a food processor, stand mixer or by hand.  Peel and cook your sweet potato.  I cooked it in the microwave for 4 minutes.  Then, blend the sweet potato and banana in a food processor.  Add the butter.  Blend well.  Then add the liquids, milk, egg and vanilla.  Add the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.   Blend.  Add the chocolate chips.

This dough is super sticky.  So, using two tablespoons just drop bits of dough on the sheet.   Brush the dough balls with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 17 minutes or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.  Let your little one marvel at the chocolate chip treasures that await within the baked goodness!

Tips for Teething Tots

“A happy baby is a healthy baby.” That’s what the lady at Homegrown Bagels, in Sonoma told me as she handed me a bag of bagels specifically designed for teething babies. As I took the bag, I wondered whether the little bagels would help make my CJ happy again.

They say that three months is the perfect age. For awhile I wondered about the source of such comments, then it hit me – three months is when babies start to become more aware. They start to notice and interact with the world around them. They smile, coo and giggle. Who doesn’t like a three month old baby?

Then four months hits and the same once smiling, cooing and giggling baby, has bouts of crying and screaming. In addition, they start drooling enough to make some dogs jealous. The cause? Teeth. Those pesky teeth cause a ton of pain as they work their way into the scene. And, in the process, they turn the sweet baby into a fussy one.

It’s happened to my own little CJ recently. With moments when he’s totally inconsolable, waking up from a dead sleep with a screech unlike any other cry, CJ has been in major pain. I even trekked him to the big city (Petaluma) for his doctor to take a peek, and well, the route of his pain – teething.

Desperate for something to help ease his pain, I sought tips from fellow moms. Here’s the list of what folks have recommended:

  • Teething bagels – If you’re lucky enough to live near Sonoma, then these lifesaving bagels are free at Homegrown Bagels
  • Cold foods or ice in mesh feeders
  • Frozen washcloths
  • Cold plastic teethers
  • Amber teething necklace
  • Hylands teething tablets
  • Advil
  • Tylenol
  • Cherry brandy

Having tried nearly all of these recommendations, it goes without saying that CJ is one of two things. He is either much more comfortable or more entertained by the various things I am offering him. He loves chewing on frozen bananas in mesh feeders, gnawing on bagels and sucking on washcloths. Sometimes though I do think that he has more fun playing the “mommy pick it up” game. The game goes like this – I give him the bagel, he drops it on the floor, I pick it up and so on and so forth.

Even if the happiness is caused by the game CJ and I play with teething tools, it is happiness just the same. It rings true that a happy baby is a healthy baby. Thank you to the moms and dads out there who gave me new ideas (and Homegrown Bagels for the teething bagels).

also published at http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Teething-bagels/

Applauding Bebe: The Battle Hymn of the Eagle Mom

There has been a lot of hype about the different ways to parent.  Not only does the discussion go significantly beyond spanking or not spanking, foreign cultures are being praised for their different, more intuitive approaches.  Now the question becomes does one subscribe to the Tiger Mom mentality, or the French, ‘Bringing up Bebe’ parenting style?   Before answering that, we should stop and ask what ever happened to the good old American Mom?

The book ‘Bringing up Bebe,’ by Pamela Druckerman, does offer much to think about.  By praising the laissez-faire style of French parenting, the book in essence criticizes American parenting styles, much in the same way as ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’.

With stories lauding infants who sleep through the night by four months of age, children who dine patiently during multi-course meals, and kids who play independently at home while parents have adult time – the laid back parenting style supported by the book begins to sound attractive.

The thought of being able to sit down at a playground and have a conversation with a fellow mom rather than chasing after my little sprinter (who has been complimented by strangers for his speed) struck a chord.   After all, it would be nice to enjoy a bit of an adult life amidst the chaos of mommyhood.

Then, I read on.  As a foodie, I took to heart the discussion about how the French encourage children to eat a variety of foods.  Described as a “cultivating a child’s palate,” Druckerman gives examples of how the French diversify a child’s culinary tastes.   French children experience a variety of foods in not only their home but also school.  In fact, there are government meetings, Commission of Menus, during which time multicourse meals are charted out and scheduled.   For example, one meal would start with a salad of shredded red cabbage and yogurt, proceed with white fish with dill sauce with a side of potatoes, after which the children would enjoy brie cheese, and lastly, a baked apple for dessert–straight from the wish list of Jamie Oliver, and drastically different from the pizza and hot dogs we Americans are known for.

After reading about children who enjoy fish mousse, I started to become a convert.  It wasn’t until the end of the book where things got a little more interesting and, for this mama, the proffered parenting style became less attractive.

The role of praise within French parenting struck a dissonant chord.  According to Druckerman, French parents “don’t believe that praise is always good.  The French believe that kids feel confident when they’re able to do things for themselves, and do those things well.  After children have learned to talk, adults don’t praise them for saying just anything.”

Another approach was recently described by the Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, who explains how children can develop  their own personal inner praise.  Basically by having children work hard to accomplish things, they develop an inner praise and confidence when they reach their goal.

Druckerman kindly jokes about how Americans praise the smallest things like kids jumping on trampolines.  Yes, I am guilty of cheering on Bobby as he jumps.  What is the harm? Arguably doing so will encourage children, i.e. Bobby, to do things purely for praise.

This is compared against the French model where praise is intentionally withheld.  Praise is not only withheld by parents, but also doctors and teachers as well.  In fact, children are to expect criticism.  Now mind you, Druckerman throughout her book gives examples of French toddlers doing exceptional things.  She describes in detail a   three year old making yogurt cake entirely by herself  –  measuring ingredients, cracking eggs, and even filling muffin tins.

So why not praise the cake-making child for accomplishing these things?  By praising the little things are we really hindering more than helping our children?  But what is the alternative?  Acting indifferent to the cake making child, or criticizing the eggshell in the batter?

It would seem that actively withholding praise and promoting criticism would lead to having children work harder to seek approval.  And, it seems that some experts out there agree.  The Raising Children Network out of Australia is an impressive partnership of organizations addressed the issue by acknowledging parents who praise children “might be worried that [their] child will start needing the approval of others to feel good.”  According to the Raising Children Network such an approval response isn’t the case.  “

In fact, children who are criticized all the time are more likely to seek approval to feel good.”

From experience with my two-and-a-half-year-old, Bobby, I can say that that praise seems to be everything.   I can even see at his precious age how happy he is when he accomplishes something – when he pieces together a train track or whisks pancake batter, Bobby has a distinct smile.  Often he exclaims “I did it!”  With so much confidence, he tells the world about his triumph.  If I were to subscribe to the French view, then I would respond by acting disinterested or pointing out that the train track isn’t quite finished.

So, I had to ask myself, what is the real harm of praising his accomplishments? Where will this lead?  Or the converse, where will withholding praise lead?

Encouraging accomplishment whether it is putting away a toy or later getting good grades, would seem over time to encourage productive behavior.   Work hard and secure good results to obtain a reward.  This is a quintessential American philosophy, dating back to the Puritan culture that landed on Plymouth Rock.  Maybe this is why American workers have been found as being more productive than others internationally — This is after Japan’s productivity boom of the 1980s and the recent productivity surges by Chinese and Indian workers.

It turns out that praise is important in developing confident children.  In the Right Way To Praise Your Kids, Heather Hatfield, explains that “not giving enough praise can be just as damaging as giving too much.  Kids will feel like they’re not good enough, or that you don’t care, and may see no sense in reaching for their accomplishments.”

The question becomes what is the right amount of praise?  According to Hatfield, “Experts say that the quality of praise is more important than the quantity: if praise is sincere and genuine, and focused on the effort, not the outcome, you can give it as often as your child does something that warrants a verbal reward.”    The article goes on to list examples of ways to praise your kids.  Giving descriptive praise – praising the effort that went into the action is singularly the best way to praise your child.

It seems by praising specific efforts and actions, a parent can help their child cultivate an inner sense of confidence.  So, American mamas like me are on to something.  From now on, I will continue to praise Bobby’s accomplishments.  I’ll be more descriptive though –  be applauding Bobby’s determination in piecing those train tracks together, or the coordination and focus in whisking batter in a bowl.   And, even if it’s not on the same level as making a cake from scratch, I’ll let him share his triumphant smile with the world.

Tomales Bay – A Cool and Kidfriendly Seaside Adventure

Summer is here, and the weather is as well.  On these hot days, the local parks are a bit torturous to visit.  If you’re looking for a place to go, why not head to the beach.  There are many great beaches out there waiting to be enjoyed by little explorers. 

Last summer, I was in love with visiting Salmon Creek; this year, Tomales bay.  Without crashing waves, these beaches are ideal for tots.  Situated on a gentle bay, these beaches are completely kid friendly.   In fact, one of the beaches, Hearts Desire, even provides shade on sunny days.

Although a bit of a drive, Hearts Desire beach is well worth the trek.  With a parking lot steps away from the shore, it is a convenient option.  Bring $8 (cash or a check) for the parking fee.  There are decent bathrooms so pregnant moms and potty trained kids don’t have to worry about finding a restroom.  With BBQ pits and a grassy area, this beach offers space for group gatherings.

Ideal for explorers of all ages, the water at this beach is calm and shallow.  Young explorers can look for small crabs, seaweed and seashells!   Older explorers can walk to deeper water and swim out to a floating platform.

The sand, perfect for castle building, encourages tots to spend hours creating whatever their imaginations desire.   Last week Bobby and I used diggers to build a road for race cars.  We decorated it with flags made from seaweed and trees made from acorns. 

If your tot is a boat lover, then you are in luck.  Bobby has spotted sailboats, kayaks and canoes at this spot.

If your tot likes to roam, then check out one of the short hiking trails around the beach.

You can bring a picnic or grab goodies on your way.   Why not grab a bag of oysters at Tomales Bay Oyster Company? You can shuck them when you get to the beach. Prefer to grab a snack after your beach adventure?  Then, drop by Point Reyes Station.  There are a few darling kid friendly cafes to visit.  Consider stopping by Café Reyes home to a kid friendly patio.  Relax on the patio while enjoying fresh oysters and wood fired pizza.

Then enjoy a leisurely drive back home.  If you’re lucky, your little one(s) will snooze on the way.

Also published at SonomaNews.com – http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Tomales-Bay-A-cool-and-kid-friendly-seaside-adventure/index.php?previewmode=on#.T9-suoa0KEU.facebook

Keeping Kids Safe In Public – Teaching Important Lessons

Recently, police reported another incident in which a strange man offered a ride to a child.  It was the third or fourth such incident in recent months in Sonoma.

Our idyllic town is so kid friendly that it seems shocking that horrible things could also happen here.  As a mom with two young boys, the recent incidents raised questions about when to start teaching about “stranger danger.”

Are children ever too young to start learning this concept?  After all, I hold childhood innocence as something to be guarded, nurtured and protected.  But my two and a half year old, Bobby, is quite friendly.  He loves meeting friendly folks at the grocery store, in the store and around town.  The recent happenings got me thinking though that maybe this is the sort of thing that I as a mom should be avoiding.

Since I am in no way an expert on the subject, I consulted with a few experts.  They had some great ideas.  First, explain to your child in a simple way what a stranger is.  A stranger is anyone who mommy and daddy do not know.  And, while not all strangers are bad, strangers require ground rules.  Then, explain some ground rules.  Children are to ask mommy or daddy first before interacting with a stranger. This can mean just plain conversations, taking something like a gift or a treat from a stranger, or getting into a car with a stranger.

Silvia Floriano the community outreach officer from our local Sherriff’s Office  put it best when she said that Children normally will not yell and run at the sight of a stranger when they are under 5 since they have started to be social, especially when they are with an adult they trust. But it’s important that they learn who they can go with and who they need to stay away from when they are alone or at a distance.  Especially since some kids, like Bobby, are very friendly and will talk to anyone in the grocery store.

Officer Floriano reminded me of the importance of us as parents understanding that young children may not be able to understand what we are telling them.   It becomes our role as parents to be patient, use simple words and be willing to repeating things over and over again.

Second, introduce the concept of a stranger to your child through Play.  Play is a great way to teach kids.   Make a game using pictures of strangers from the web, newspapers or magazines and those of family and friends.  You could even just save a few photos on your phone.  Have your child pick a picture of the safe adult (family/friend) and someone they don’t know (stranger).  When they do it you can reiterate the ground rules (i.e. ask mommy before taking anything from someone).

Third, explain to your child the appropriate response when they are approached by a stranger.  This can be a game as well.  When your child is approached by a stranger they need to run back to mommy, daddy or whomever is taking care of them.  They can yell, scream, kick, etc.  You can make this a game as well.  Role play with your child.  Have them pretend someone in the family is the stranger.  Then, when the stranger approaches the child, have the child run to find mommy or daddy.  You can also use this to teach how to respond if they are grabbed by a stranger – i.e., kick, bite, yell, scream.

Fourth, there are two other topics related to strangers that are important to introduce – secrets and appropriate touching.  As Officer Floriano put it “A good secret will not make you sad or make you feel bad.  Such as a birthday gift.”  Whereas, “A bad secret will make you sad, scared and will make you feel bad.  And can hurt you like bad touches.” Of course, it becomes important to teach children that bad secrets are not to be kept from mommy or daddy, especially if they hurt or make them feel scared or bad.  Someone may tell your child that you will get upset, angry, mad when your child tells you a secret.  So, you can explain to your child that you will never get mad or angry at the child for telling you a secret.

Fifth, teach them about their Personal Space (the space around them that only safe people can be in) also talk to them about the Safety Circle and the Safe Area.  Make it a game. Show them that they need to yell, run and tell.  You can do this at the park.  A child’s personal space is that surrounding them when he/she stretches out their arms.  A safe area is the area that is open and makes it easy for a safe adult to see and hear the child at all times and for the adult to see and hear them.  This is opposed to trees, bushes, buildings, etc., places where it is difficult for children to be seen.  You can explain the concept of a safe area at a park.  Have your child point out safe areas to you.

Lastly, keep in mind that potential predators know what they are looking for.  Officer Floriano explains that “a bad person, who will hurt children will look for the child that seems to be alone, isolated, quiet and is not making contact of any kind with the adults around. So event when your child is playing and you are just sitting on the bench watching… be watchful and always make sure your child sees you and responds even if it’s just a wave. Also being aware of who is hanging out and looks out of place is important.”  In addition, she cautions parents “When you are going to spend time at any public place with your child make sure that you pay attention to them. A simple distraction can have a devastating result.”

published also in the Sonoma Index Tribune, 5/22/2012

Bobby Snacks

ImageEarlier today, Bobby and I came up with a new snack.  Why not combine his two favorite foods – chocolate and marshmallows?  We added them to his new favorite cereal, Rice Krispy Treats which he calls “Snap Crackle Pops.”  The result was something between fudge and crunchy bliss.  So, here is the recipe from my future chef:

  • 1 bag of marshmallows (10 oz)
  • ½ bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons of good unsalted butter
  • 6 cups of Rice Krispies
  • Toppings as desired – we used candy.  Specifically chocolate covered caramels.

Take out a large skillet or saucepan.  Heat on low to warm the pan.  Add the butter. Melt the butter.  Then, add the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Stir occasionally until the mixture is melted.  Turn off the burner.  Add Rice Krispies.  Mix gently.  Put in a greased pan.  Add toppings.  Let cool.  Enjoy!

Also published at:  http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Bobby-Snacks/